I have always said, “if I am going to cook one chicken, I might as well cook two.” It’s not really any more work. I have come to believe the same about pot roast, pork roast, and just about anything that is braised, smoked or roasted.
In the case of this casserole you could make it anytime by using cooked ground beef but if you do as suggested and make extra pot roast for a Sunday dinner then this is the perfect way to make use of it midweek.
3 Cheese Beef & Noodles (serves 6)
1 small onion, minced
12 oz. fusilli pasta
1 lb. chuck roast, cooked and shredded
1 cup Pomi brand strained tomatoes
1 ½ cups beef broth
8 slices American cheese
5 thick slices of fresh Mozzarella
1 ½ cups of Edam or Fontina Cheese
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add pasta and onion then cook for 4 minutes.
Drain the pasta and onions and place it back into the pot. Stir in the tomatoes, beef broth, and chuck roast.
Dump the pasta into a large casserole. Jiggle the casserole to spread the mix out evenly.
Layer the cheese on top starting with the American, then the Edam, and follow with the mozzarella.
Bake for 25 minutes or until browned and bubbly. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.
Is it the heat in August, or the midday cicadas—grinding, grinding, grinding—that reminds me of the time of year? The horizon, corn pollen and gravel dust, is smudged. This is the first August I can ever remember going outside after lunch to find it refreshing instead of repressing. The sun is as bright as on a crisp fall afternoon and the humidity is nowhere to be found—grinding, grinding, grinding.
I like to hear the corn grow and without the humidity there is nothing from which the growing pains can echo. An ambulance, siren blaring, leaves town. The sirens grow louder until the emergency vehicle turns north on the state highway. The sirens begin to fade.
It has been like this all summer and I am being robbed. I like the heat. It is the humidity and heat that makes my vegetables grow. I have nothing growing in my garden this year. By rights I should be eating okra. I should have so much zucchini I have to feed it to the chickens. I should be looking forward to garden succotash and fried chicken but my lima beans died long ago in the continual down pours of early spring. I should be picking fresh field peas and pole beans but I never even got the baskets down from the cabinet. I should be cutting sweet corn from the cob and freezing it.
I rock gently in an easy chair on the front porch and eat a pimento cheese sandwich. From out across the fields I can hear the announcer for the high school football game calling plays. I think back to all my first days back at school. I feel the butterflies in my stomach, another summer grows quite.
(Makes 2 cups)
3 cups cheddar cheese, grated (about an 8oz. block)
2 teaspoons yellow onion, grated on a micro plane
3 tablespoons jarred pimentos plus 1 tablespoon pimento juice
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Nathan’s mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Tabasco sriracha
1 tablespoon ketchup
fresh ground black pepper to taste
Place all the ingredients into a mixing bowl. Stir gently with a spoon until everything is combined. Let sit for an hour before serving. Store in the refrigerator tightly covered.
In a sense, to smush, press, or mash a sandwich could feel redundant but it’s not. It is a tool employed to make certain kinds of sandwiches better. Case in point, a Cuban, panini, a shooter’s sandwich, and pan bagnat.
I love all these sandwiches. Classics, each and everyone.
In the heat of summer, I rely on the pan bagnat, which when translated means bathed bread. It is a vegetable based sandwich from the south of France, it is light and I find it refreshing. Often the ingredients list is patterned after a Salad Nicoise subbing in anchovies for the tuna. For me I like to use omega-3 oil rich sardines but use whatever tinned fish you fancy.
The sandwich is built in layers, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and then some sort of weight is put on top of it. At my house the sandwich gets sandwiched between sheet trays and the milk and juice jugs set on top compress it. Because the sandwich is lightly salted and weighted after a couple of hours under pressure a lot of liquid is released only to be soaked back up by the bread.
And that’s the genius of this sandwich. In my experience it never gets soggy but instead it becomes meltingly tender, the juices mingle, and in the end this makes for a perfect sandwich on a hot summer day.
sandwich, french, sardines, vegetables, summer
Pan Bagnat (makes 1 sandwich)
a 6-inch (15.25cm) piece of French baguette
1 tin skinless, bonleless, sardines in oil
1 small cucumber, peeled
1 medium sized tomato, sliced
5 or 6 thinly sliced red onion rings, skin removed
Slice the baguette in half lengthwise. On one piece of the bread coat the interior with mayonnaise. On the other spread out a tablespoon or two of salsa verde.
Using the peeler, peel thin strips of cucumber, 10 or more of them. Lay them in an even layer across the salsa verde side. Give the cucumbers a sprinkle of salt.
Top the cucumber with the sardines, on top of the sardines lay out the tomatoes. Season the tomatoes with a sprinkle of salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Top the tomato with red onion. Place the olives onto the mayonnaise so they stick.
Place the olive/mayonnaise bread on top of the sandwich. Wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and then either place a brick on top, a sheet tray with weight, something heavy. Let the sandwich remain weighted for at least three hours to overnight.
To serve remove the plastic wrap, slice on the diagonal, and serve with a glass of chilled dry white wine.
Finally, the long standing blanket of snow has begun to recede and melt back into the dark earth, but not without leaving behind a disheveled landscape — like lifting an area rug you have meant to clean under for the past year. It is ugly outside, and depressing too. It is the worst time of year. The melt-off signals the beginning of the end of winter, but the skeptic in me knows that the weather is more than likely crying wolf. Either way it sets a spark to the natural cycle of things.
A bee flying in the orchard still bare of leaves, lands on my arm, walks around a moment, then looks up at me with sad puppy dog eyes and flies off. A couple of raccoons out during daylight forage the field for last season’s spilt corn. At the wood’s edge an opossum trips on a branch and falls fifty feet before landing with a thud in the remnants of a wet snow bank. I realize it is time to join the others as well — to come out of hibernation, to replenish.
But I have a problem. I am sick of kale. Even my beloved collards put me off. The hell with you turnip and rutabaga, for you’ve left a bitter taste in my mouth. I push bowls of Brussels sprouts away as if I am a child again, and my mother is trying to force feed them to me (she even threatens me with no dessert). I have eaten my greens in all forms, and I can’t stand them anymore. I have hit the winter vegetable wall. With the exception of but a few, the only way vegetables are still palatable is with heavy cream and bits of bacon.
Through it all, somehow potatoes taste good — more then good — amazing. Anything resembling a jar of sunshine helps (like last summer’s canned tomatoes with basil tucked into the red pulp). Going outside helps, too, because the musty smell of thawing earth and the gentle heat of the midday sun gives me hope for what is to come. Luckily, any food on a platter that resembles comfort is still a hit at the table– such as these chicken legs, tenderly covered with a parchment lid and slow cooked in a Dutch oven until they become sticky. A dish that’s good anytime of the year, but especially welcome during the wait until spring.
Tips for Better Braising:
1. Always caramelize the protein. Mind you, many times the vegetables are caramelized too, but not always. The deeper the caramelization, the deeper the flavor of the finished dish. Be mindful of the fond (the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan) — don’t let them burn. The ideal braise includes a beautiful fond, which occurs when the bottom of the pot is schmeared with brown bits of cooked-on-goodness that releases into the sauce when you add liquid. For good measure, always use a wooden spoon and scrape along the bottom of the pot to make sure that nothing is left behind.
2. If a recipe calls for vegetables, always add more. If a recipe calls for 1-cup of mirepoix, don’t be afraid to add 2 cups. A braise, as far as I know, has never been hurt by too many vegetables.
3. A parchment lid is one of my favorite kitchen cooking methods. I don’t know the exact science behind it other than that it works (and makes your food better). It allows, at least in my mind, the food that sits atop the liquid to brown and caramelize while preventing the liquid from evaporating.
4. Just because meat is cooked in a liquid doesn’t mean it won’t dry out. Have you ever eaten a piece of pot roast that is so hard to swallow that it gives you the hiccups? It is most likely because the roast was too lean or overcooked. Be mindful of cooking times and fat content.
5. If a braise only calls for a mirepoix to be used in the broth, at the end of the cooking time I will oftentimes remove the meat, degrease the braising liquid, and purée the vegetables to make the sauce creamy without having to add even a touch cream.
Serves 4 or more
For the chicken legs:
8 to 10 chicken legs, skin-on
1 cup celery, diced
1 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 cup carrots, thinly sliced on a bias
12 to 18 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups tomato purée
1 cup vegetable broth or water
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 tablespoon rosemary, minced
1 1/2 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, minced
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1. Season the chicken on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat the oven to 375˚ F.
2. Place a large sauté over medium high heat. Add enough olive oil to the pan so that the bottom is just coated. Add the chicken legs and brown them generously on all sides. Adjust the heat as necessary. Add the carrots, celery, and onions to the pan. Season them with salt and pepper. Let the vegetables brown.
3. Once the veggies brown add the garlic and rosemary. Stir the veggies around and once the garlic is fragrant nestle the chicken legs comfortably with the veggies. You want you veggies and chicken spooning. Add the white wine and let it reduce to almost nothing. While the wine is reducing use a wooden spoon to scrape up all the good bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add tomato and vegetable broth. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover with a parchment lid, then slide it into the heated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
For the mashed potatoes:
6 to 8 russet potatoes, depending on their size, peeled and cut into 1 inch rounds
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup whole milk, possibly more
kosher salt and fresh ground white pepper
1. While the chicken is in the oven make the mashed potatoes. Place the sliced peeled potatoes into a large pot and add enough cold water to cover them by 4 inches. Add a tablespoon of kosher salt. Place the pot over high heat and bring it to a boil. Once it is boiling reduce the heat to keep the pot from boiling over. After about 15 minutes check the potatoes to see if they are done by inserting a kitchen knife into the middle of one of the larger pieces of potato. If the larger ones are done you are assured the smaller ones will be too. The knife should easily pierce the potato.
2. Drain the potatoes into a colander. Let them steam for a few minutes to rid themselves of excess moisture. Then using a ricer, a mixer or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment either rice, or mix the potatoes till broken down. Add the butter and mix some more. Season the potatoes with a touch of salt and fresh ground white pepper. Add the 1/3 cup of milk. Mix and then taste for seasoning. Adjust the seasoning as necessary and add more milk if the potatoes are too stiff. Be careful as to how liquidy you make the potatoes. Error on the stiff side because the tomato gravy will loosen them up a lot as they co-mingle on the platter.
3. Plate the potatoes onto a large platter. Top the potatoes with the chicken legs then the carrots, onions and celery. Ladle the tomato gravy over all and sprinkle on the parsley. Serve.